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Medical exam ordered for ailing singer Etta James

The Associated Press, Friday, February 25, 2011, 12:52pm (PST)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) -- A Southern California judge has ordered an independent medical evaluation of ailing Etta James after her son's attorney contended that the "At Last" blues singer could be in "very serious danger" under the care of a live-in doctor.

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The 72-year-old James suffers from dementia, leukemia, kidney problems and other ailments. Her son's attorney, James E. Deering Jr., said at a Thursday court hearing that Dr. Elaine James, who is not related to the singer, put feeding tubes into James' stomach at home — a procedure that should have been performed in a hospital, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.

Deering compared the singer's situation to that of Michael Jackson, who died while under the care of a live-in physician. Dr. Conrad Murray has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter.

A report by a confidential investigator that was released to attorneys Thursday raises "significant questions" about whether Etta James is receiving proper medical treatment at her home in the Woodcrest area of Riverside County. Superior Court Judge Thomas Cahraman ordered a court-appointed attorney representing the singer's interests to arrange for independent physicians to examine the singer and review her medical charts.

Elaine James told The Associated Press by phone Friday that she welcomed the independent examination and said the judge made a wise decision.

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"He can have 10 examiners, he can have 20 physicians to come in that house to perform the duties I do," she said. "I have a list of 23 medical sub-specialties that I have had to treat her for. She is not an easy patient."

The 49-year-old surgeon said she was brought in by James's husband a year ago and that she also cooks, buys groceries and trains nurses who help care for the singer.

She declined to detail the care she has provided, but said it was crucial.

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"I have saved her several times," Elaine James said. "Eventually she will die with something, but it will not be with my help."

The doctor wouldn't reveal her fee, but said reports she has received $20,000 a month for the care weren't true.

Last month, Cahraman ordered $60,000 taken from the singer's bank account to pay for her medical care. On Thursday, he ordered the singer's accounts frozen after another $30,000 is released to pay for her care.

The order came during a court battle between the singer's son, who has power of attorney for his mother, and her husband, who contends that his wife wasn't mentally sound when she granted that power in 2008. A decision could give either one control of more than $1 million in assets.

Another hearing in the case was scheduled for April 4.

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